John Shuster won’t surprise anyone at the Olympics.
The five-time Olympian is back in Beijing to defend his curling gold medal, and the target on his back will be almost as big as it is on the ice. Four years after winning five straight eliminations in Pyeongchang, the American is again a strong medal contender.
“I definitely feel less pressure,” Shuster said after his win at the US Curling Trials. “For me the success last time, winning Olympic gold, is the top of the mountain. And no matter how you end up in other Olympics, it doesn’t matter.
“I think I feel less pressured,” he said, “but I think I have supreme confidence.”
Shuster won bronze in 2006 as the lead for Pete Fenson’s team—the first U.S. Olympic curling medal. He then left to build his own rink, traveling to Vancouver, but doing so badly that he benched himself.
After finishing 10th in 2010 – dead last – Shuster won the US Trials again four years later but finished just ninth in Sochi. When USA Curling set up a high-performance camp of the nation’s top 10 players, Shuster didn’t make the cut.
So the most decorated Olympian in American curling history put together a four—calling himself “Team Reject”—and not only beat Federation-backed squads at the US Trials, but won gold in Korea.
Along with 2018 teammates John Landsteiner and Matt Hamilton and Olympic rookie Chris Pliss, Shuster is hoping to survive the slow start to last Winter Games. Britain and Canada will have curling powers for a long time if they stumble.
Tabitha Peterson is headed for her second straight Olympics—not her first time on the US women’s team.
A Twin Cities native, Peterson finished third for Nina Roth’s team in Pyeongchang. When Roth took maternity leave the following season, Pietersen went on to leave the team captain, who is not only the last and most important stone thrower but also has the final word on strategy throughout the match.
“It’s definitely different, just in terms of my role in the team,” Pietersen said. “I had to rethink the way I thought about the game, my role, my approach, my preparation.[and]what I do with the ice – there is more strategic learning.”
Roth is back on the vice-skip, throwing third, with fellow 2018 holdover Becca Hamilton second. Olympic rookie Tara Peterson, Tabitha’s sister, is leading, throwing first.
“It’s been amazing, this group of girls,” Tabitha Peterson said. “We are very happy to be together, no matter what our roles.”
American women have never won an Olympic curling medal. They went 4-5 in 2018 and failed to qualify for the playoffs.
A handful of curlers will be among the busiest athletes in the Olympics.
Before turning his attention to the men’s tournament, Plais will compete with partner Vicky Persinger in the mixed doubles event – meaning he can be on the ice for 18 consecutive days, sometimes two sessions per day.
Others doing double duty are Britain’s Jennifer Dodds and Bruce Mouat, Italy’s Amos Mosanser and Sweden’s Oscar Ericsson. (Norway’s Magnus Ndregotten is a substitute for the men’s competition; China and Canada were still filling out their teams.)
back for more
It’s not just Shuster’s squad that’s trying to replicate. All of Pyeongchang’s medal-winning teams are back for another try, with a few minor reshuffles to the lineup.
In the men’s field, Sochi bronze medalist and Pyeongchang runner-up Niklas Edin is back to complete his set of Olympic awards. The Swiss team left behind by Benoit Schwarz, who won bronze in 2018, is back, but with a new third Sven Michel.
Anna Hasselborg’s four will defend its Olympic championship in the women’s section, and Japan’s Team Fujisawa is back after winning bronze four years ago. Team Kim from South Korea is back at their home in Pyeongchang with silver medalist, Kim Cho-hee coming in second.
Canada’s Caitlin Laws and John Morris won mixed doubles gold in Korea – the only curling medal for powerhouse Canada in Korea – but the co-trial was canceled due to the pandemic due to a delay in the selection of a team for Beijing. Silver medalists Jenny Perret and Martin Rios of Switzerland and third-placed Norway’s Kristin Skaslian and Magnus Nedregoten are also expected to advance on the podium.
The Norwegian team, which became a sensation for its psychedelic pants at the last three Olympiads, has been torn apart, depriving the curling sphere of a lovely dose of sartorial personality.
The only member of Team Ulsarud to win a silver medal at the Vancouver Games, which will take place in Beijing, is the third Torger Ngard. As a substitute for the gold medal team in Salt Lake City in 2002, he would return for the sixth straight Olympics, this time as the third to leave behind Stephen Walstead.
There’s no word yet on the plans for his pants.
welcome to the house
Tahli Gill and Dean Hewitt qualified for the mixed doubles field, becoming the first Olympic curlers in Australia’s history. Czech Republic is also making its debut with mixed pairing of Zuzana Paulova and Tomas Paul.
At the other end are six countries that have placed teams in all three regions: Canada, the United States, Britain, Sweden, Switzerland and hosts China.
The US and Canada have been in every curling field since the sport was added to the Olympic program in 1998 (for men’s and women’s) and 2018 (for mixed doubles). But they missed the 1924 Games, when men’s curling made a one-time appearance before being dropped for the next 74 years.
Britain and Sweden finished 1–2 at the 1924 Games but each failed to qualify for the previous year’s mixed field.
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